Nostalgia Trains & Buses Return for the Holidays

Once again this holiday season, the MTA will offer nostalgia lovers the opportunity to the ride back into the past with rides on vintage buses and subway trains. There’s no better way to get around while doing your holiday shopping! Dating back to the early part of last century, the Nostalgia Train is made up of subway cars in service along the lettered lines between the early1930s to the mid-1970s. Equipped with ceiling fans, padded seats and incandescent light bulbs, the R/1 through R/9 cars served the IND and later some BMT lines. Customers will have the opportunity to hop on board as it operates along the Sixth Avenue M Subway Line.

“Holiday shoppers, tourists and those who just remember a bygone era will have the opportunity to experience a ride on a subway train from yesteryear, said MTA New York City President Carmen Bianco. “With a little bit of luck and good timing, riders will be able to catch a ride on this classic subway train at stations along the M Subway line between Queens Plaza and Second Avenue.”

Many New Yorkers bear fond memories of the trains. However, with the cars having been out of service for nearly 40 years, many more New Yorkers have never experienced the charm of wicker seats and ceiling fans. The holiday “Nostalgia Train” will operate on Sundays only, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., on November 30, December 7, 14, 21, and 28.


Car No. 100 --- Manufactured by American Car and Foundry, this R1-type car was the first car in the initial order of 300 cars placed in service for the opening of the IND subway.

Car No. 484 --- Part of a 500-car order of R4 cars manufactured by American Car & Foundry. In 1946, this car received a retrofit of bulls-eye lighting and a public address system.

Car No. 1575 – Originally manufactured as an R7, this car was involved in a wreck in 1946. Sent to the American Car & Foundry factory, the car, which is equipped with fluorescent lighting and smooth sides, was rebuilt as the prototype of the next generation R10 subway car.

The nostalgia won’t be limited to the subway. Bus customers using the M42 crosstown route will have the opportunity to ride a vintage New York City bus for the holiday season. Everything will be original except the fare. The crosstown buses run from Monday through Friday, December 1st through December 19th .

The historic fleet is appreciated by Transit's top managers for their historic significance. "These buses are a living, breathing part of the city's history and each has a unique story to tell about the era in which it operated," says Darryl Irick, Senior VP of NYC Transit Department of Buses and President of MTA Bus and a former Bus Operator himself. "When you examine this collection as a whole, the progression of motorized surface transportation in New York City really comes to life."

Many of the vehicles in NYC Transit’s historic fleet have been deemed to have historical significance to the city, including bus number 3100, a 1956 GM which was the first air-conditioned transit bus to operate in the City, and 5227, the last non wheelchair-accessible bus to operate for NYC Transit, pulled from service in 1993.

While most of the preserved and restored vehicles were ordered and operated by NYC Transit, the earliest buses belonged to predecessor companies, notably the Fifth Avenue Coach Company, which was founded in 1885. The historic fleet is made up largely of so-called "old look" buses (built prior to the Autumn of 1959) and "new look" models (buses with slanted windows and enlarged windshields built in Pontiac, Michigan from the Autumn of 1959 until the introduction of the RTS in 1977).

General Motors and Flxible are the most heavily represented manufacturers, though there is also a 1956 Mack in the collection. Interestingly, all three companies are now out of the bus-building business.


Bus No. 3100 - Manufactured by General Motors in 1956, this Model TDH 5106 was the first air-conditioned transit bus to operate in New York City. The bus was designed and built to demonstrate updated features. Other features introduced in the 1950s included the push-type rear exit doors, wrap-around rear soft seating, fluorescent lighting, and the air-ride suspension that is still the standard today on today’s transit buses.

Bus No. 6259 - Manufactured by Mack Truck and Bus Company, Model C49DT first arrived to the fleet in 1956 and was in operation until 1969 in Staten Island and NYCT Brooklyn routes. The “DT’ in the model number stand for “Diesel Transit,” this model was delivered with cushioned seating but converted to hard plastic in the mid-1960s because of vandalism.

Bus No. 8466 - Manufactured by General Motors, this Model TDH 5303 were ordered in 1966 for MaBSTOA and NYCT to replace 1940s and 1950s vintage buses acquired by the City after the Fifth Avenue Coach Lines takeover in 1962. This series was the first new fleet of New York City buses designed and built with air conditioning and also featured large illuminated advertising signs on each side. These buses proved to be so reliable and durable that several were selected to be rebuilt in 1984 to extend their useful life lives.

Bus No. 5227 - the last non-wheelchair accessible bus to operate for NYC Transit, pulled from service in 1993.

Bus No, 7144 – is a 1957 General Motors TDH 5106. Another classic “old look” style reminiscent of thousands of similar buses that operated throughout the City from the 1950s to the early 1970s. All Nostalgia services are weather permitting. The buses will not roll during periods of rain and snow and Nostalgia Train runs will be canceled in the event that winter weather necessitates storing the subway fleet along express tracks underground.

Some of the vintage train cars are usually housed at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, where they have honored positions as static displays reflecting a time before automated voice announcements, air conditioning or bright fluorescent lighting. Customers can always catch more vintage trains on display at the Museum. And, don’t forget, the Annual Holiday Train Show at the Museum’s Gallery Annex at Grand Central Terminal features a working layout and a selection of vintage model trains dating from the 1800s. The Holiday train show is on view now through February 22, 2015. Hours are Monday through Friday between 8 a. m. and 8 p.m. and weekends 10 a. m. to 8 p. m. (Saturday) and 10 a. m. to 7 p. m. (Sunday). Please note: The Gallery Annex and Store at Grand Central will close at 6 p.m. on Nov 26, Dec 24 and Dec 31.

The Gallery and Annex is located on the main concourse, adjacent to the Stationmaster’s office.